Hangzhou Greentown 1 – 1 Arsenal: Match Analysis & Video Goals
Much like the previous game in the packed, noisy and humid Bukit Jalil stadium in Malaysia, Arsenal were greeted by a mixture of 31ºC heat, torrential rain and around 51,000 fans when kicking off at 12.30pm against Hangzhou Greentown, a … Continue reading →
Much like the previous game in the packed, noisy and humid Bukit Jalil stadium in Malaysia, Arsenal were greeted by a mixture of 31ºC heat, torrential rain and around 51,000 fans when kicking off at 12.30pm against Hangzhou Greentown, a Chinese club side based just outside Shanghai.
Unlike the match against Malaysia however, the first half’s tone was strikingly different with the currently out-of-form Greentown startly comfortably. Arsenal lined up in what dissolved in a 4-1-2-3 formation during the half with Mannone, Traore, Djourou, Squillaci, Sagna, Frimpong, Rosicky, Nasri, Arshavin, Van Persie and Vela starting – the Dutchman leading the side.
As early as the 3rd minute Arsenal were exposed at the back with Djourou missing a challenge and Mannone making an uncomfortable block. Although there was some good early pressure from the Chinese club side (who are in a domestic rut as of late) the game really lacked the urgency of its predecessor and felt very much like a friendly – the Arsenal players looked leggy and from nothing a combination of lazy Arsenal play meant Hangzhou got a shot away and hit the bottom of the post in the 14th minute. Sagna was far too deep, Squillaci pulled out of his tackle and Frimpong didn’t track his run: Arsenal escaped by the skin of their teeth.
However the lesson wasn’t learnt and in the 16th minute a reckless lunge from Frimpong gave Greentown a free-kick 40 yards out, which Hangzhou committed 8 players to knowing Arsenals weakness on set pieces. Sure enough, Arsenal’s defence failed to defend the free-kick, resulting in Mannone spilling it and Vasquez finishing after losing his marker Squillaci, making it 1-0 to the Chinese side.
Arsenal upped a gear after going a goal down but still looked lackadaisical throughout the first half – Van Persie was played through soon after but skewed his chip wide. Greentown targeted Traore who was tucked in too far and the wingers Vela and Arshavin didn’t provide much cover. Although he played an unfamiliar (and less effective) box-to-box role, Nasri was undoubtedly Arsenals best player and the only source of creativity: the formation was loose due to the lack of a recognisable striker and the wingers were playing narrow due to the uselessness of crosses.
In the 35th minute Arsenal were nearly caught out again in an identical way to earlier with Squillaci mis-timing his tackle, but Frimpong recovered very well. In a half where the passing wasn’t accurate or crisp, the pace was dire and Greentown won all the aerial battles, Arsenal looked certain to go in at 1-0 down until a spark from Arshavin put Van Persie through in stoppage time. An Arshavin chip over the Hangzhou defence (who had eight men behind the ball) was volleyed at the keeper by Van Persie and Vela was quick to put in the rebound to end the half at 1-1, a scoreline which reflected how poor the first half was.
It was a completely different side out for the second half with a more youthful look as well: Szczesny, Gibbs, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Jenkinson, Wilshere, Song, Ramsey, Miyaichi, Chamakh and Walcott started the second half in much better style. A solid back-line totally denied any chances to the Chinese side and the more defined 4-3-3 showed off more accurate passing and most notably, quick closing down. Although this side showed greater finesse and urgency in their play, Greentown played very defensively with 5 defenders and 3 holding midfield players which Arsenal struggled to penetrate.
On the stroke of the 55th minute Wilshere engineered a good chance for Chamakh, whose outside foot shot was saved well and Miyaichi fed Gibbs for a similar chance which was also squandered. Arsenal looked reinvigorated, exemplified when Szczesny claimed a free-kick nearly identical to the one we had earlier conceded to. From the 65th minute onwards Arsenal played entirely in the opposition half and flooded the box with players, but when push came to shove on the final ball the Gunners were impotent in front of goal.
Walcott’s performance was indicative of the teams: he kept his defenders busy with excellent runs all game but skied an easy rebound in the 64th minute and soon after rifled wide from inside the box. Chamakh also had a number of chances which he executed well, but not fantastically, leading to the score-line being 1-1 going into the final 10 minutes despite Arsenal’s marked improvement in performance. Miyaichi was once again desperately quiet and glued to the sideline, unable to influence play with perhaps three contributions.
While the emphasis was placed entirely Aaron Ramsey to create chances, he understandably couldn’t fulfil the role of the absent Cesc Fabregas and although Arsenal had the lions share of possession they couldn’t find a way over or through the Greentown defence. A lazy swipe at the ball from Gibbs that sent the ball well over the bar in the 92nd minute looked the be the last real chance of the game until some dogged play from Jack Wilshere won a free kick – a quickly taken dink which Arsenal failed to win in the air. While this half was a real improvement we didn’t convert a single chance and although you could say that wouldn’t have been the case had Fabregas/Arshavin/Nasri been on for ninety minutes, it does show a lack of depth in terms of personnel.
When the final whistle blew to finish what was ultimately a fairly depressing game for an understandably leggy Arsenal side beginning their pre-season training, it seemed that contrary to answering questions left from the Malaysia game, more had been raised. Will Arsenal concede that they have an aerial weakness? Will they sort it out? Why can’t we defend set pieces? Who will Arsenal bring in to sort out our deficiencies?
The only advantage from an Arsenal point of view is, at the end of a money-spinning tour, we still have time to right wrongs that have been highlighted against an inferior side, the same side that shipped 8 goals against Manchester United just a few years ago.
Watch goals from the game here
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